2021 Indiana General Assembly Report, Weeks 14 & 15
The end of the 2021 Indiana General Assembly is finally in sight. The week ending April 9th we saw the final, full week of committee meetings for this year’s session.
CAC monitored meetings of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Environmental Affairs Committee and the Senate Utilities Committee in addition to a number of stakeholder and legislator meetings.
We saw the terrible, immunity-for-toxic-carbon-polluters bill pass out of House Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 373 allows underground storage of toxic, supercritical carbon dioxide for the Wabash Valley Resources project in Vigo County. The bill was amended in Committee with the support of the coal interests. Despite our opposition, the bill passed 9-3 and went on to be amended on the House floor to more specifically align the committee amendment with Indiana Electric Association demands. The Wabash Valley language in SB 373 remains one of the most dangerous proposals the Indiana Legislature has ever devised. While the unproven technology has become a lightning rod issue, what’s really troubling is that no one wants to talk about the blanket immunity for the project. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful the language is removed during the conference committee process.
Senate Bill 386, Indiana’s first attempt at securitization, or financing capital recovery with a bond repaid in utility bills, was signed by the Speaker recently and is on the way to the Governor, who is expected to sign. We were pleased to be part of the conversations on this bill from the beginning and appreciate the bill taking a more consumer-friendly form. SB 386 returned to its introduced version as a pilot (meaning it applies only to Centerpoint Energy and the AB Brown coal-fired power plant) but it also includes language that provides ratepayer protections. More on this important pilot here.
Senate Bill 348, the Wastewater Task Force, went to conference committee where we will likely see the partisan makeup of the task force become an issue. Senate Bill 349 moved to the Governor this week. If you recall, the bill returned to its introduced form to clarify the local government public process for investor-owned water, wastewater and electric utilities in purchasing municipally owned systems.
The bill deregulating Indiana wetlands made news, as Senate Bill 389 was brought for a vote before the House Environmental Affairs Committee where it was amended and passed. The amendment failed to alleviate concerns of the 90 organization strong coalition and after much debate, the bill passed both chambers with bipartisan opposition in both the House and the Senate. We were asked by the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly for comment about floor Amendment #1 and we weren’t shy about SB 389’s disastrous implications for Indiana’s environment. The bill now goes to the Governor, who’s stated his disapproval in the past.
Thursday, April 15th marked a significant deadline in the legislature: third reading deadline is the day by which bills must be voted upon or they will fail to advance. It is important to note that language that has passed either chamber, and to an extent, any legislative language can still make its way into a bill during conference committee. This is commonly called “Death Watch” and we are working with our coalition partners to monitor each and every conference committee in the interests of consumers. Follow our updates on Facebook and/or Twitter for announcements regarding bills we’ve been following in these weekly reports.
Speaking of bills that are dead, House Bill 1381 wasn’t brought by its author for a final vote before the Senate this week. Sen. Mark Messmer withdrew the bill and said that working on wind and solar siting standards was like “a hostage negotiation.” While we have not taken a position on the bill that sets standards governing local implementation of wind and solar siting, our Kerwin Olson has explained the conundrum to many press outlets, including the Indianapolis Star.
Upcoming this Week
- Adjournment of session is planned for Wednesday, though the Legislature isn’t calling it sine die this year. Legislators will allow the session to continue until November in order to act on redistricting since census data was delayed by the Trump Administration. It is unclear whether legislators will act on other issues during this period of time.
A legislative process note:
A handful of bills have already made their way to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk — one earning his veto which was quickly and easily overridden. Follow the process with the click of a mouse here. Once the legislation has been signed by both the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate, it heads to the Governor for further action. Once officially received by the Governor, the bill receives up to ten days of consideration. He is allotted ten days to either veto or sign the bill. If the bill does not receive either action, it becomes law without the Governor’s signature after ten days has elapsed.
Lindsay Haake & Kerwin Olson